This is a message I read last night and it is a message everyone should read. The man is Lou Rodriguez, and besides being a great and smart individual, he was once in the industry. You may not like or agree with the message, but it is in line with what I have been saying and what many smart people have been saying.
Cigar Industry update:
My thoughts, and certainly not intended to offend anyone. Many of my closest friends are in the cigar industry and I owe a lot to them. Cigars are my passion, and my identity. Regarding the latest FDA news:
1. We were not blindsided. We have known this day would come for years. If you came out with new blends or a new cigar co and did not know about this, you didn't do your homework. So, to not have a back up plan is inexcusable.
2. Barring a miracle, which could happen, and I am not writing that off, it is unlikely and your time is running out. August 8, 2016 is approaching. You either have to give up or play by the rules.
3. Petitions? We signed these already and it had no effect. Even if we hit 100k this time it doesn't mean that anything will change. August is still coming.
4. Cigar smokers are a very small population. If big tobacco (cigarettes) could not prevent FDA oversight, it is doubtful that we will. The vape community has an equally legitimate argument, if not more so (not tobacco, and not around pre 2007. That's the FDA's way of saying we don't agree with what you are doing.). So, I'm skeptical about just a cigar bailout.
5. Most people will continue smoking the cigars that they have been for the past 20 years. Cigars are not being banned. It is not the end of the cigar world. On that note, who cares about Cubans? Most are poorly made now a days and the majority of better cigars are ex pats anyway. That's Fidel's problem not ours.
6. The demographic of cigar smokers that wants "something new" all the time is extremely small. Furthermore, since they always want something new it ironically prevents a foothold in the market leaving these orphans in the wind. The demographic that smokes what they always have could perhaps represent an older crowd that is not as vocal or tech savvy and possibly be one reason why the turnout this time for the signatures is small. Or they just don't care.
7. Cigar shops will continue to stay in business. People will just have to conform to smoking the Fuentes, Padrons, macs, and Romeos that have always been around. My personal experience with shops, are that there are a handful of great tobacconist in the country, people that should be proud and are stellar. Winstons, in VA, Crescent City in NOLA, Jeff Moutet at Riverside, I can name more of them if you like, yet they are a handful. Many, if not the majority are corporate tycoons that are only interested in selling what is moving big. Shelf space was always at a premium, for me, as it should be, for the best movers. Most could care less who makes it or what the product is. I can name some of those in private if you'd like. As a close friend once told me, "I don't care who makes it, as long as I like it!"
8. Will cigars cost more? Possibly. Depends if manufacturers will try to pass along incurred costs for new submissions on to grandfathered cigars. To be determined.
9. Why aren't the big people bailing us out? Why should they? Having been a small manufacturer myself, I was getting tired of every Tom Dick and Harry coming out with 'proprietary' blends. Good riddance. Let's face it there was a lot of garbage cigars coming out on a daily basis. I mean they do not even take time to make a decent label, I'm sure the tobacco wasn't much better.
10. The industry that suffers are the legitimate boutiques. My friends, that I was in the trenches with, I'm sorry that this happened to them and wish them luck. If I could help in anyway I would. I don't have the answer, I have ideas, but it is still I unchartered waters and this will take years to play out if ever.
11. Samples and donations. I am all for the 'soldiers' and I gave freely. However I was constantly harassed, almost on a daily basis with unsolicited phone calls looking for donations to charity, donations for sampling and reviews ( most can go screw themselves. Some being so blatant such as 21 yo girls that just started smoking 6 months ago. Really? I don't care what you think about my cigars!) others were just pathetic enough to ask for free stuff. Me personally, I would never walk around with my hand out. (I'd like to throw in a few independent sales reps In This category as well. You know who you are.)
12. If I have offended anyone with this post it is not my intention, just stating the harsh reality we face. I do not want to lose anyone's friendship. These are things that I wanted to say. I rarely post anything. Please feel free to brainstorm at my expense.
- Lou Rodriguez